Scout installs kestrel boxes to earn Eagle rank
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Peter Wyatt Phelan, center, member of Boy Scout Troop 145, Lehighton, attained the rank of Eagle Scout. He is standing with his parents, John Phelan and Fenna Millen.
Peter Wyatt Phelan of East Penn Township was recognized for achieving the rank of Eagle Scout at a Court of Honor ceremony.
Peter is a member of Boy Scout Troop 145, which is led by Scoutmaster Ben Glueck and meets at the schoolhouse adjacent to the Mahoning Valley Fire Company. He has completed 25 merit badges in a variety of subject areas, as well as his Eagle Scout project benefiting Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association, which took 126 hours to complete.
The Court of Honor took place on March 30 at SS. Peter and Paul Church in Lehighton. Peter received congratulations from his pastor, the Rev. Mike Ahrensfield, and a prayerful letter of recognition from Pope Francis. Carbon County Commissioners Tom Gerhard and Wayne Nothstein presented a resolution from the Commissioners' Office. Harry J. Wynn, III, from the American Legion, recognized Peter with a citation of appreciation from the Shoemaker-Haydt Post 314 of Lehighton. Patti Borger presented a flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol in Peter's honor by request of U.S. Congressman Matt Cartwright.
Dr. Laurie Goodrich, senior monitoring biologist of Hawk Mountain, spoke about the importance of Peter's project in providing nesting boxes for kestrels, which are small falcons. She said that the numbers of kestrels in our area are in decline because of farmland habitats being altered by humans.
Dr. Goodrich reported that although once common across farmlands and fields, breeding pairs of kestrels have plummeted 50 percent between 1998 and 2004.
Chris Nothstein, Peter's first scoutmaster, had the honor of pinning Peter with his Eagle Award. He also presented a letter of congratulations on behalf of his father, Sheriff Dwight Nothstein.
Peter used his time at the speaker's podium to explain what being an Eagle Scout meant to him and to thank a number of people who had helped him along his trail to becoming an Eagle, including Scoutmaster Ben Glueck and assistant scoutmasters Brad Frable, Alexis McAllister, Mike Muffley and Chris Nothstein. He also thanked Bryan Buffington, Lehighton Area High School band director, who served as master of ceremonies for the Court of Honor.
Peter presented Eagle parent pins to his mother and father, Fenna Millen and John Phelan. Peter awarded mentor pins to Chris Nothstein for igniting his passion in scouting and camping, and to Mike Muffley, who hiked and backpacked with Peter and his troop over 200 miles in Pennsylvania.
For his Eagle project, Peter built and installed 20 kestrel nesting boxes at Goodrich's request. Peter has been a volunteer for Hawk Mountain since he was 4, so he was keenly aware of the decline of nesting habitat for these raptors and was more than eager to help.
He educated local property owners on the decline of kestrel habitat. These neighbors were gracious enough to allow Peter along with his troop and family to install the nest boxes on their properties in East Penn and Mahoning townships. Dr. Jean-Francois Therrien, senior research biologist of Hawk Mountain, taught Peter how to install the boxes and showed him how young kestrels are banded.
More information on the Kestrel Nest Box Program can be found at http://www.hawkmountain.org/science/research/kestrel-nestbox-program/page.aspx? id=301.
Peter is looking forward to monitoring the occupancy of these newly installed boxes this spring. He hopes to spend the summer working at Boy Scout Camp Trexler before continuing his education at Lafayette College, where he plans to major in engineering.